Today is Thanksgiving in the US, so Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate.
This holiday is all about giving thanks, so it’s also the perfect time to say “thank you” to the readers of this blog with a free holiday short story.
This story came out of the 2020 July short story challenge and was inspired by an episode of Magnum PI of all things, where Magnum and Higgins muse about the meaning of the initials “RT” and Magnum suggest “robot turkeys”. Magnum and Higgins are interrupted by men with guns shortly thereafter and the robot turkeys never come up again, but somehow they stuck in my brain, so I wrote a story about literal robot turkey besieging a small town.
I never did anything with the story afterwards, because it was too short to publish as a standalone. However, then I realised that it would make an excellent free story for Thanksgiving, so I polished it and out it up on the blog. At the next update, it will also go into The Christmas Collection, my massive collection of holiday stories in various genres.
But for now, enjoy…
The Robot Turkey Apocalypse
by Cora Buhlert
No one knew where they came from. After all, robot turkeys are not exactly the sort of thing you’d expect to bring the world or at least the small part of it that was the town of Brighthaven to its knees. In fact, robot turkeys are not the sort of thing you’d expect — period.
Robot cats, robot dogs, robot wolves, robot dinosaurs, sure. All of these things make sense in a twisted way. But robot turkeys? Why would anybody build robotic versions of very strange looking birds that humans only domesticated for their lean meat and then only ate once a year anyway? Truly, it makes no sense.
But that’s the problem with real life. Unlike fiction, it doesn’t have to make sense.
And so the robocalypse was brought about not by artificial intelligences using our smart cars, smart homes, smartphones and smart toasters against us. It was not brought about by man tinkering with things man should not tinker with. Its harbingers were not lumbering steel giants bristling with weapons or sleek chromium plated humanoid robots faster and stronger than any human could ever be. Instead, it was turkeys. Robotic turkeys with deadly beaks and razor-sharp tail feathers they could fire like flechettes with deadly accuracy.
No one ever figured out who made the robot turkeys. They had obviously escaped from a lab somewhere, but who had built them and why? A mad scientist was the most likely explanation, if only because you’d have to be mad to build robot turkeys. But no one had any clues regarding the identity or motive of that hypothetical mad scientist.
Some thought it was a Communist plot, but then they were the sort of people who always thought of a Communist plot. Some thought it was aliens, but then they were the sort of people who always thought it was aliens.
However, the most likely explanation was that someone had created the robot turkeys for Thanksgiving, maybe as an eccentric garden ornament or to appear in a parade or a play or a theme park. Only that something had gone horribly, terribly wrong somewhere along the way.
As explanations went, it was farfetched, but no more farfetched than the existence of robot turkeys themselves. The fact that the first robot turkeys had been spotted in early November also seemed to point to the Thanksgiving explanation.
But wherever they came from and however they came to be, the robot turkeys quickly made their presence known. One Monday morning in early November, a flock of robot turkeys chased a group of children waiting for the school bus down Highway 29. Thankfully, there were no casualties except for nine-year-old Mary Lou Porter who stumbled and fell and knocked out one of her front teeth.
It was a freaky, scary occurrence, but everybody thought it was a one-off event. Until it happened again a few days later. This time around, a flock of robot turkeys invaded the parking lot of Brighthaven office park. They chased hapless cubicle workers across the parking lot and into the office buildings where they barricaded themselves.
This time, there also was a casualty, Walter Gibbons, a fifty-seven-year-old businessman who was struck in the calf by a tail feather flechette, while dashing across the parking lot. He stumbled and fell and was promptly pecked to death by the robot turkeys, while his horrified co-workers watched from the upper floors of their office blocks.
The siege of Brighthaven office park, as it came to be known, lasted for twelve hours. Of course, the trapped office workers immediately called the police — on their cell phones, because the robot turkeys had pecked through the landlines. But when the local sheriff’s department finally deigned to arrive — after the fifth panicked call about murderous robot turkeys — they not only found that yes, the robot turkeys were real and the calls had not been a hoax, but also that there was preciously little Brighthaven’s finest could do about the robot turkey menace.
Shooting only made them angry, for the robot turkeys were too small, too swift and too well armoured to get even hit by bullets, let alone suffer damage. However, a flock of them could quickly take out a squad car, as Deputy Andy Dunwich found out to his detriment.
Once the police realised that there was nothing whatsoever they could do to get rid of the robot turkeys, they finally called in the local fire department. What they thought the fire department could do is anybody’s guess. However, when Fire Chief Aloysius P. Hargreave had his men unroll the hoses and ordered “Water on!”, it turned out that robot turkeys really, really did not like water. And so, the robot turkeys fled across Highway 29 and into the undergrowth.
After the siege of Brighthaven office park, absolutely no one believed anymore that the robot turkey attacks were just a one-off. Especially since there were new robot turkey attacks all around town reported every single day now. The robot turkeys invaded garden parties and backyard barbecues. They rampaged through Clearvalley Mall and chased customers across the parking lot of Benson’s All-Organic Supermarket.
Once, the robot turkeys even attacked a wedding party that took place in the rose garden of Winter Creek Resort. They chased waiters and wedding guests around, trampled the roses, pecked at the bridesmaids and guests, reduced the bride’s designer wedding gown to tatters, gave the groom a nasty wound in his calf and put the officiating priest in hospital.
Aloysius P. Hargreaves and his fire brigade were everywhere in those days. Their sirens could be heard all day and night, as the fire engines rumbled through the streets to wash away the latest robot turkey attack with their mighty fire hoses.
By now, mayor Martin C. Oakley was desperate. His town was under siege by a menace like none ever seen before, the firefighters were close to collapsing with exhaustion and the National Guard was not returning his calls. It was only when a smartphone video of the attack on the Benson-Simonetti wedding at the Winter Creek Resort went viral that the rest of the world outside Brighthaven started to believe that the robot turkeys were indeed real.
Now the National Guard finally did come to Brighthaven, only to find that their weapons had no more effect than those of the police. However, the National Guard also had a mobile water cannon for riot control and that proved to be remarkably effective. For the robot turkeys really did not like water and the jet of a water cannon is a lot more powerful than that of a firehose.
Slowly, but gradually the National Guard drove the robot turkeys back. The jets of their water cannons blasted the robots turkeys across the road and smashed them into cars, buildings, bollards, traffic cones, mailboxes and any other obstacle they encountered. Most robot turkeys just got up again and fled back into the woods whence they came, but some of them suffered more serious damage. Soon limping and dead robot turkeys could be spotted on roads all around Brighthaven. If a robot turkey was still moving, the town’s young hooligans delivered the coup de grâce with a baseball bat. The invasion was beaten back at last and the humans were winning.
The last robot turkey in Brighthaven was spotted limping across Highway 29. It was missing most of it tailfeather flechettes, one whole wing and one eye. The thing seemed confused, staggering to and fro, until a passing forty ton truck put it out of its misery.
The people of Brighthaven cheered and put on an impromptu parade to salute the brave men and women of the National Guard and the Brighthaven fire department.
By now it was early December, Brighthaven was glowing with Christmas lights and everybody was confident that life would return to normal or what passed for it. Until the robot Santas emerged from the woods, shooting laserbeams from their eyes…